Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
This July, Chris and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. The day we were married, I was 26 and he was 29. When we made our promise in front of friends, family, and God: Until Death Do Us Part–we had no idea what the day to day, the year to year would look like. I suppose if I’m honest, I’ll admit–I thought it was going to be easy. And of course, it hasn’t always been what my young heart thought it would be.
On our wedding day, we listened to our minister recite 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.
And with love in our eyes we promised each other we would love each other in that way, First Corinthians type of love. I truly believed in my heart that I would do all those things, be all those things for Chris. And I believe he thought he could do the same for me.
But we haven’t. We’ve been inpatient. Unkind. Boastful and proud. We haven’t always honored each other and we’ve been self-seeking. Both of us have been easily angered and sometimes kept tally marks of each other’s wrong-doings to use as ammunition against each other in fights.
Because we are human.
And nearly 10 years later I can see that we have been able to love each other in many of the ways 1 Corinthians tells us to: our love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, we have always protected one another, trusted, hoped, we haven’t been envious of each other, and our love has always persevered.
Ten years later, I know some things about marriage. And I have so much more to learn–because for some ten years is a lifetime and for others, it’s a drop in the bucket.
Here’s what I know:
I see it as a marathon. We aren’t even half way there. We’re still in the first 5 miles and must pace ourselves and continue to work on what holds us back from loving each other in the way that God intended.
Marriage is about falling into pace with each other. When one person chooses to grow, the other person cannot be left behind. Feelings of jealousy have no place in our hearts towards each other.
Sometimes, people grow. And because we are individuals, we can’t force one person to be ready to grow with the other at the same time. But here is what I’ve learned–from my own marriage of 10 years, seeing my own parents marriage of 39 years, my grandparents marriage of 64 years: When your partner grows, you must pace along with them. Be an encourager and supportive–not bitter or resentful.
Because your turn will come. And your partner may be the one that is holding back–and you will need his support. It’s almost as if the person who is growing has no choice but to grow and the other person must be the supporter and encourager. Being left behind will cause too big of a separation. A great divide–and if you aren’t careful, it may never be filled–it may be too difficult to build the bridge to connect the two of you.
I believe that opposites attract but the core of who you are need to be in alignment. And the heart should always want and hope for the best for the other person.
Chris and I are opposites in so many ways. With running, I’m constantly trying to do more–run more miles, get faster. Often, I’m too hard on myself and a race can leave me raw and feeling emotionally bruised because I put all my heart into it–and when you live that way, you feel huge disappointment when you don’t meet your goals.
Chris has a completely different approach to running. I call him The Happy Runner. He has a pace that he feels comfortable running and instead of setting goals to improve time his sense of accomplishment comes from crossing the finish line–not tied to any time or pace. He has never been disappointed from a run or race because he loves running for what it is: just running.
We couldn’t be more opposite.
The differences between us help balance each other and help each other grow. When I first started running and encouraged Chris to give it a try, his response was: I’m happy on the elliptical. But the more enjoyment he saw me getting from running piqued his curiosity–and before I knew it–he was joining me on my runs and we became a running couple. And his relaxed, never worry, give it all to God approach to life helps temper me–he calms me and reminds me–stop trying to control everything and enjoy life more.
On Valentine’s Weekend, Chris and I ran our first marathon together. It wasn’t the first time either of us have run a marathon–number 7 for me and 3 for Chris–but it was the first time we ran together–from start to finish.
I wasn’t planning on running the Austin Marathon–the last few months I’ve been running, long distances, but without a race on the horizon. This season had been about Chris’ goal to possibly run his first sub 5 hour marathon. I had faith he could do it and even offered to pace him for that time goal.
The truth is–I didn’t really want to run it. I knew if I ran I’d want to give it my all and yet I hadn’t trained for this race so I thought it would be better for me to take the kids and cheer Chris on. But he needed my help. And it turns out, I needed his help too. Every day for two weeks before the race he asked me if I had signed up–I was non-committal and would say–no, I didn’t think I’d be running or maybe I’ll sign up tomorrow. A few days before the race he texted me: I signed you up.
It was such an honor to pace my husband for his marathon. It’s not like I was always cheerful about the fact that I had to fit my runs in around his training schedule–but it was necessary. Being his pacer was the least I could do–after all he did for me to train and finish my two ultra marathons–something I wouldn’t have been able to do without 150% support from him. Because on the days I would cry: I can’t do this. It’s too much. He’d push me out the door to get my training runs done. He cared for our children so I could get in my miles. He believed in me while I was growing and chasing after a dream. Though he didn’t run those ultras–he paced along side me in life—-no feelings of resentment at my growth. He showed me when your partner is ready to grow, you need to hang on for the ride–encourage, support, cheer them on–that is just one act of love.
He was dealing with some foot pain and a flared achilles tendon. He wanted me to run with him for moral support–worried that he wouldn’t finish the race. Little did I know, I would get so much out of running a race this way. I enjoyed running this marathon in a way I never have before–you truly do get so much satisfaction in helping someone achieve a goal–it becomes a gift to the helper. I had never paced someone for that long. It was as if I got a front stage pass to seeing someone’s goal become a reality.
And when we first started, I naturally took off at my usual pace–I felt a tug on my shirt and looked to see him pulling me back. His face said: Slow down–be with me. He was getting me back on track with pacing him for his race. Not mine. Yes. I can and will do this for you I told myself.
Marriage is a fine balancing act of matching each other’s pace, and running Chris’ pace meant I got to see the marathon with new eyes. I wasn’t focused on my pain or struggle–instead I got to absorb all the sights and sounds around me. I noticed all the volunteers, the people cheering us on, the determination on Chris’ face to finish even when his achilles was aching for relief. For once I got to truly enjoy a marathon from start to finish–and when he thanked me and said: I wouldn’t have finished without you–my heart soared. The race I hadn’t really wanted to run turned out to be such an unexpected gift from my husband.
Nearly ten years of marriage has taught me: We aren’t perfect. We aren’t always in alignment. But my heart should always hold this truth: It’s an honor to pace along side my husband in life. Never a trouble or burden.
Never Give Up,
For you, my Christopher Robin.